This article is a follow-up to one we did recently called “How NOT to do Social Media for Investor Relations“. We got an overwhelmingly positive response but also dozens of questions about how “Social Media” companies used underhanded techniques to effectively scam their clients.
The results are below; what we consider the top 8 Ways Your Social Media Company Is Robbing Your IR Dept. But since Social Media is fluid, we’ll probably have to do another update in a few months.
#1 – Buying Social Followers
This is one of the most common techniques and it’s sadly rampant throughout Social Media. We’ve seen tiny ($2 million market cap) companies with twice as many “Likes” on Facebook as BHP or Agnico-Eagle.
The sad fact is (sorry to disappoint) that if you’re a small cap company, it’s very likely that nobody cares about you in Social Media and nobody really “Likes” your Facebook Page. Save potentially for the person who built it, who technically has to Like it by default. The rest is just noise and spam. Or, at least, it is for now.
How do they do this?
Really easily actually. You search online for “Buy Facebook likes” and pay a service like:
Now that’s just the top 10 results. If you dig deeper, you’ll notice that there are almost 80 pages of similar results and services. So if your Social Media company tells you that your Facebook page has 7000 Fans, ask them who they paid for them. Or better yet, ask why this “interest” hasn’t translated to Comments and Likes on Facebook Posts, Posts being shared with friends, website conversions and best of all, the trading of stock.
In reality, this is not a new concept. For years, newsletter writers have been coming up with similarly useless email lists and selling them as “Leads”. Which brings us to our next strategy…
#2 – Faking Lead Lists
The concept of a “Social Lead” is one of the more ridiculous notions we’ve come across in Social IR reporting. These “Leads” have supposedly been generated on your Facebook Page, your Blog, your Twitter profile and various content networks like YouTube and Slideshare. The theory is that this person has seen your company online and was so thrilled with the 7K fans following you that they immediately handed over their email address. We don’t buy that.
Let’s remember that Social Media users are on Social Networks and following people and companies to AVOID filling their email inbox with spam. Why would they signup for your email newsletter when they can just as easily follow you on Twitter? They’ve already found your profile. We understand that yes, there may be the odd person that prefers email updates to constantly monitoring Twitter and potentially missing your company’s message, but these people are a tiny minority of those looking at businesses on Social Media.
How do they do this?
Again, it’s not hard. From the days when I (shamefully) helped start Viral Network Inc in Vancouver, I was given dozens of lists totalling some 250,000 email addresses. They were given to me by some bloke in a client’s office who had worked in stock promotion for decades.
All your Social Media company really needs to do is find an old-school IR company looking for a Social Media presence and then do a quick service swap. This combination of resources gives them the email lists. Next, all they need to do is cut out 1000 names a month and shoot them over to you as a “Leads” list. It’s efficient, but highly un-ethical and virtually useless for marketing purposes.
We’re handed these lists somewhat regularly and asked to use them to promote the natural growth of social connection for the company. The problem being that if you plug a “Social Leads” .csv file into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, you’ll find virtually no users associated with those email addresses. And the ones you do find? Those are attached to fake profiles, which leads into our next point.
#3 – Commenting With Fake Profiles
One of our pet hates is the attempt to deliberately deceive clients by suggesting that a Facebook Page gets more engagement than it actually does. This is a common tactic and incredibly easy to both manipulate and detect.
One of the difficulties with buying fake Facebook Likes is that you’ve not got a huge list of followers who don’t exist. The result is when you post something to your Facebook Wall, you’ll get no engagement whatsoever. That’s troubling if you’re the one buying the lists because now not only do you need to fake the network growth, but you also need to fake user engagement in order to justify your service.
How do they do this?
This is actually slightly more time-consuming than many of the other methods listed here. It requires building and maintaining at least a handful of fake Facebook Profiles to then use for re-sharing and liking posts by clients. It’s easy to pick as you can see in the image above. The only real saving grace is that Social Networks do have algorithms to prevent and eliminate this kind of activity.
“Stock Guy” is a popular personality that we’re aware of who is used for this kind of false interaction. How can we tell he’s fake? Well for one, his name is “Stock Guy”. But if that doesn’t convince you, let’s check out his about section…
Hmmm a Twitter profile? No way… maybe that means we’re wrong and he’s totally legitimate!
Wait. No. Account Suspended. Never mind…
#4 – Buying Media Views
Another simple truth. If you haven’t had a Social Media presence very long, there are probably not 1000s of people who are desperate to see your new corporate video when you YouTube it tomorrow. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a YouTube Channel or that you shouldn’t post your video, but if suddenly more people have viewed your latest video update than Noah Guthrie’s “Sexy and I Know It” you’ve probably been duped by the people who supposed to be generating legitimate views.
How do they do this?
This is much the same process as outlined in method #1 outlined above. As we mentioned previously, there are numerous services that provide this ability. Here are the Top 8 in Google Search today:
Again, the best way to tell if these views are legitimate is to measure them alongside other metrics such as: Comments and Likes on the videos, Social shares, Email shares, Website conversions, Embeds and finally Trading volume.
#5 – Keeping YOUR Content
We believe at IR Smartt that if you’re paying for content strategy and creation, you should also be in control of its content publication and ownership. But recently, some Social Media companies have been using paid client content for their own benefit rather than that of the companies they represent.
How do they do this?
- You pay them to produce a corporate video for you
- Your CEO/CFO or IR representative is recorded giving an interview
- A reel of their own branding is edited into the intro to the video
- The interviewer signs off as their company not yours
- The raw and edited video files are not released to your company
- The edited video is published on their YouTube channel
Now this might seem at first glance to be perfectly acceptable. You’ve got exactly what you paid for, a corporate video, right? Wrong.
1. There is no benefit to your stakeholders of inserting your Social Media company’s branding into your corporate video; this does nothing to benefit you. In fact, it detracts from your brand and creates brand recognition for the people who are supposed to be creating it for you. In doing this, they’ve hijacked your message for their own purposes.
2. You’ve paid for content but you’re not given the content files? That’s unacceptable. In dealing with any content creator, ensure that you have all ownership rights to content created using your company’s image.
3. The reason for creating this video is to create engagement between your stakeholders and your company. It (the video) should drive new media views on YOUR YouTube Channel. It should create new followers of YOUR YouTube Channel. It should position YOUR YouTube Channel as a source for industry news and related content. If the Social Media company that reps you is publishing this content within THEIR network, they’ve just taken your money and content to promote themselves.
#6 – Monitoring The Wrong Metrics
While they might seem like the cause of the problem, the last five points have all been symptoms of a much larger issue in your Social Media campaign. The reason all of these techniques exist is that your Social Media company is deliberately developing, monitoring and reporting on the wrong metrics. Why? Well for one, inflating figures like the ones described is a lot easier than doing Social Media properly. It requires far fewer man hours, no strategy and looks on face value to be a great product for a probably very reasonable price. But are you getting any benefit from it?
What they probably monitor
- Followers – the total # of people who follow your profiles
- Social Leads – the total # of people who signup through Social Media
- Views – the total # of people who view your videos and presentations
Why do they do this? Because they’ve promised you “results”. Since they’re reporting to you on the wrong metrics, “results” in this case means numbers free of detail or reason.
What they should be monitoring (amongst others)
- Engagement – how many people are talking to you, and how regularly?
- Social to Web Conversions – how many people visit your website via Social Media?
- Website Leads – how many people then want more information?
Success with these metrics will provide you a highly successful Social Media campaign. But it’s also a much harder Social Media campaign to run. The good thing though, is that these figures are impossible to fake.
#7 – Not Giving You Detailed Reports
One line from the 70s British comedy ‘Yes, Minister’ (seen at 10:30 in the clip below) seems appropriate here: “Statistics? You can prove anything with statistics.” “Even the truth.”
If they’re monitoring the wrong metrics, there’s almost no reason for your Social Media company to provide you a detailed report.
Why do they do this?
Because “the truth” that’s been fed to you has nothing to do with value to your company or stakeholders. If your monthly Social Media reports don’t breakdown the raw data, if they don’t assess progress and make recommendations for improvements, then the truth will only be in the raw statistics. That’s not good enough.
Monthly reporting should be where your Social Media company really earns their keep. Demand more from your reports. Ask about the metrics outlined above and insist that you’re kept abreast of more than just follower numbers. The ROI in Social Media is not in the size of your network so don’t let anyone get away with throwing statistics at you and calling it the truth.
#8 – Keeping The Strategy The Same
As we said in the opening, Social Media is fluid. The social landscape changes almost daily and in order for your company to be successful online, you need to adapt quickly to those changes. This goes for the social community as much as for your industry.
As these changes come up, your Social Media strategy should be evolving. If it’s not, then your Social Media company is not being the agile innovative organization that you’re paying them to be. This comes back to reporting. If you’re happy with follower growth, your Social Media company has no motivation to improve the strategy.
Why do they do this?
Mostly, because they can. If they’re employing the techniques mentioned above and you’re convinced that follower growth is the key metric in your Social Media strategy then why should they go to the effort of improving something that is working for them? Note: that doesn’t mean it’s working for you.
What should you do?
Ask what the Social Media strategy is for the upcoming month. Ask EVERY month, without failure, in an email response to the report you receive – and record the response. If you get the same response, or worse yet, a vague response, then you’re dealing with someone who likely has a strategy for you, but not for your stakeholders. Get that same response again and start asking for your money back.
We hope that this sheds some light on the dark side of Social Media. But also, we hope you’re not discouraged to give it a go. There are some companies doing a fantastic job of Social Media strategies for Investor Relations departments. If you’re at all curious for a second opinion on the product you’re paying for, shoot us an email to get AT irsmartt.com and we’ll be happy to give you our two cents. Thank you all!